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monroe boat tour

Crystal River Preserve State Park Boat Tours Resume

By Diane Bedard Posted on October 3, 2019

The 24-passenger vessel, Monroe, resumed normal operations from Crystal River State Park on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.  Its boat tours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays offer visitors an opportunity to explore history, culture, and nature on the Crystal River.

Make plans now to take part in these 1.5 hour narrated tours that allow visitors to ride in comfort through one of Florida’s most pristine and biologically diverse estuaries. 

Bald Eagles, bottlenose dolphins, ospreys, and the occasional surfacing footprint of a traveling manatee are common sightings on the boat tour.    

Boat tours depart from the Crystal River Preserve State Park Visitor Center on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.  Tickets go on sale one hour prior to departure time.

I took this tour several years ago. Our guide told us about the Native peoples who settled the area. They were a hunter/gatherer people who fished the islands and held tribal ceremonies at the nearby Crystal River Archaeological State Park.

The view from Temple Mound A in the Crystal River Archaeological State Park. Image by Diane Bedard

We saw the Archaeological State Park’s huge Temple Mound A from the water. It is believed that native peoples from many areas came to this midden complex to bury their dead.

The Crystal River Archaeological State Park

The Crystal River Archaeological State Park has a six-mound complex, and is one of the longest continuously occupied sites in Florida. For 1,600 years the site served as an imposing ceremonial center for Native Americans. People traveled to the complex from great distances to bury their dead and conduct trade.

It is estimated that as many as 7,500 Native Americans may have visited the complex every year.  There are displays of dugout canoes and an amazing stele, believed to be a ceremonial stone erected for astronomy and rituals on the grounds.

The Museum is housed in a 1965 building of architectural interest.

There are two stelae at Crystal River Archaeological State Park. Visit during the day after your boat tour, or come early for the Moon over the Mounds Tours beginning October 11. Image by Diane Bedard

Moon Over the Mounds Historic Nighttime Tour starts up Friday, October 11

October 11 begins the monthly Moon Over the Mounds program, where visitors experience a nighttime guided tour into the history of this Pre-Columbian ceremonial site. 

The tour is led by experienced interpreters, lasts about an hour, and begins at the Museum.  Learn about the Ancient River Dwellers and the cultural, historical, and ecological importance of this gathering place. 

Museum doors open at 7:30 pm, and the tour begins at 8:00 pm.  Visit the Museum, which houses artifacts found at the site, and enjoy refreshments prior to the tour.

A dugout canoe being constructed like the Natives were believed to. Image by Diane Bedard.

The Friends of Crystal River State Parks conducts these tours and requests a $5 donation to help fund the endeavor. Reservations are not required. 

Groups are encouraged to attend, but please let the Park know in advance by calling 352-795-3817.

The Archaeological Park Museum is a 61-acre pre-Columbian Native American site located at 3400 N. Museum Point, in Crystal River, Florida. There is a $3 fee per car for the park.

Wildlife is Abundant in the Crystal River Preserve State Park’s Estuaries and Salt Marshes

dolphins
Bald Eagles, bottlenose dolphins, ospreys, and the occasional surfacing footprint of a traveling manatee are common sightings on the boat tour.     Image by Pat Manfredo.

Back to our Crystal River Preserve State Park boat tour. On the tour, we saw eagles, dolphins, mullet jumping, a variety of seabirds, and small islands, as well as some pretty spectacular homes, as we toured the area in comfort.

Crystal River Preserve State Park is a remnant of the Florida coastline that has changed little since Europeans arrived 500 years ago.

The preserve encompasses more than 27,500 acres of scrub, pinewoods, hardwood forests, salt marshes, and mangrove islands, according the Florida State Park’s website. A seven-mile unpaved loop trail allows visitors to hike or bike through the unspoiled wilderness.

An historic and nature-viewing tour is available at the Crystal River Sate Park, put on by Friends’ of the Park, it offers another view into ancient civilizations, the opportunity to see native wildlife and a relaxing cruise that supports the park and its activities.

To support and sustain the operation of the vessel and continued park interpretive programming a donation is requested of $20.00 for adults and $10.00 for children ages 12 and under to take the boat tours.  Accepted forms of payment are cash or personal check and the tickets go on sale one hour prior to each tour at the Park’s visitor center. No debit or credit cards are accepted for payment.

Crystal River Preserve State Park Boat Tours resume in October

The Friends of Crystal River State Parks, Inc., in partnership with the Florida Park Service, continues to offer exceptional eco-tourism experiences in Citrus County.

Sunset Tours resume on October 11, 2019

sunset
The Sunset Cruises are offered twice monthly from October through May. Enjoy a fun and relaxing Friday evening retreat back to nature with refreshments and snacks provided. Image courtesy of Pat Manfredo.

I am looking forward to trying the Crystal River Preserve State Park Sunset Tours aboard the Monroe. They depart from the Park’s Visitor Center dock for a delightful Sunset Cruise and travel out to the Gulf of Mexico for spectacular sunsets.

The Sunset Cruises are offered twice monthly from October through May. Enjoy a fun and relaxing Friday evening retreat back to nature with refreshments and snacks provided.

Tickets are available one month in advance at the Preserve Visitor Center. The cost is $25.00 for adults, $15.00 for children under 12. No credit or debit cards – check or cash only. Call ahead at (352) 228-6028 with questions.  Address is 3266 N Sailboat Avenue, Crystal River, FL 34428.

Crystal River Preserve State Park is located at 3266 N. Sailboat Avenue in Crystal River, Florida. For more information, call (352) 228-6028.  There is no charge to visit this park. To learn more about the park, please visit:  www.floridastateparks.org/park/Crystal-River-Preserve

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